Sandra Mattavous-Frye: Power Gladiator
Sandra Mattavous-Frye doesn’t look like a legal gladiator. In a town that celebrates naked power, she’s demure – a self-confessed introvert. She chooses her words with quiet precision, positioning each like the pearls draped around her neck.
The diminutive stature and soft demeanor is just a foil. When Mattavous-Frye walks into a hearing room or steps before the microphone, energy titans beware!
As the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia, Mattavous-Frye is the lawyer for DC utility ratepayers. The Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) represents DC consumers in individual and system-wide complaints against the electric, gas and telephone monopolies. With 44 consumer advocates across the country, Mattavous-Frye is the only Black woman.
Withstanding deregulation, divestitures and the global conglomeration of what were once local utility monopolies, Mattavous-Frye is clear on her mission: “We zealously represent the ratepayers as the people’s utility lawyer. Our role is to ensure that everyone, regardless of race or income receives the life-sustaining services that public utilities provide.”
Mattavous-Frye rewrote the script in 2014, spoiling for a fight when Chicago-based Exelon Corporation submitted its acquisition bid for Pepco, DC’s electric company. The merger would create the world’s largest supplier of electric service.
In litigation and a series of appeals that drew out the merger for two years, Mattavous-Frye and her small band of lawyers faced off on behalf of the DC consumers in a classic David versus Goliath contest.
From the courtrooms to the town square, to civic associations and the airwaves, Mattavous-Frye pursued an incessant public campaign to expose the threats and demand protections before the deal was sealed.
Exelon, with revenues of approximately $34.5 billion and a personnel force of 34,000, ultimately acquired Pepco. But it was a bruising battle that resulted in several concessions for DC consumers.
Mattavous-Frye, prevailed in the court of public opinion, and the stock of the People’s Counsel soared.